My dad, Don Brown, 79, from Vashon Island, WA, had quite the unconventional lifestyle well before I was born. Since he was a teenager, he has had an entrepreneurial criminal career, having dabbled in a variety of crimes. He had taken part in a few bank robberies, counterfeited a few documents, smuggled more than a few pounds of illicit plant substances and spent an unfortunately large amount of time incarcerated. Through it all, though, he never hurt anyone.
Despite living on the edge he never spent a day in the hospital and rarely took as much as an aspirin for a headache.
November of 2010 my dad came to visit me and meet my boyfriend in Los Angeles for the first time. Right after he got off of the plane we went to grab something to eat. When my dad ordered a sauerkraut dog and beer after his flight, I laughed, but I was a little concerned because I knew he was in good health but had been experiencing elevated blood pressure for a number of months.
Upon returning home to Washington, he went to a doctor’s appointment and the routine blood work came back showing he had signs of chronic kidney disease, lupus (an auto-immune disease), and Hepatitis C.
He went from seemingly excellent health, to sudden and severe signs of chronic health conditions.
He was given referrals by his local general practitioner to see a handful of specialists in order to evaluate and devise a treatment plan.
Over the next couple of months his intake of medications increased as quickly as his symptoms.
In April 2011, just 5 months after my dad’s visit, he was to the ER and admitted to the hospital because of edema for two weeks. His body was holding so much water it was seemingly and visibly leaking out of his skin.
He was diagnosed with of acute anemia, extremely high blood pressure, damaged kidneys, liver issues, and an auto-immune-lupus-like-disease; though no concrete diagnosis was able to be confirmed due to the oddity of his symptoms.
I called the hospital as soon as I found out he was admitted. When I spoke with a nurse she was unable to release any information on my his condition without my being there in person. I couldn’t understand how it was possible that his daughter, who had Power of Attorney, was unable to obtain information on his condition or treatment. I was absolutely livid and made it known. They assured me that, by law, there was no way that I could be given information over the phone.
I got on the quickest flight I could to Washington and walked down the halls of the hospital and introduced myself the next afternoon.
My dad looked horrific. His left arm was swollen, black and blue. He explained that when he was admitted to the ER, he was given a blood transfusion for his anemia. They began the transfusion but he told them it hurt and felt wrong; they ignored him. The transfusion was administered incorrectly resulting in the black and blue because they missed his veins. They neglected to change anything until they noticed something wasn’t going correctly and restarted the transfusion, an hour later.
The edema, the “swelling”, was equally as alarming. He had gained 40lbs from fluid retention. The reason for the fluid retention, we were told, was because his kidneys were damaged and failing, and not processing his liquid intake.
The last and most distressing thing I came to realize was the amount of medication he was taking on a daily basis. At one point his treatment called for upwards of 18 medications with several of the pills having to be taken multiple times throughout the day. It was a complicated schedule of pills.
Since he was admitted during the weekend, it took two days to get a Doctor to fill us in on the causes of this severe reaction and the actual treatment plan. For two long days he was monitored: blood drawn from his swollen and bruised arms: blood pressure taken; urine analyzed; and many other tests unknown. I continuously asked to speak with a Doctor so we could get more information, and instead we watched one nurse after another come in day and night.
“Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment”
― Lao Tzu
FRUSTRATED & GOOGLING
While we waited, I accessed the Wi-Fi in the hospital from my laptop. I decided to organize my questions for the Doctors, and start my research. I quickly noticed a pattern as I researched each medication: Many of the medications had side effects that included the exact conditions he was suffering from; specifically and most dramatically, high blood pressure and edema.
The nurses informed us that he might need a second blood transfusion. The first transfusion had indeed helped his anemia, but I couldn’t understand how they could need to do a second so soon. After witnessing the damage to his arm the first time, I began frantically Googling about blood transfusions.
The first thing I saw was about Chlorophyll.
“Chlorophyll is the stuff that makes leaves green and puts grass stains on your clothes. It is also the undisputed king of blood builders, which is why green leafy vegetables are important to building healthy blood.” (source “The Life is in the Blood”)
“The chemical makeup of chlorophyll is the same as human hemoglobin at the exception of one molecule.” (source “Natural Treatments for Anemia”)
I asked a new nurse if he had ever heard of patients being given Chlorophyll for anemia. I was shocked when he admitted he had never heard of chlorophyll.
The second transfusion was ordered and, thankfully, administered with no problems and brought improvement.
Frustrated, without answers, and with still no Doctors available, I asked the nurse for a report of all of the medications my dad was prescribed. With 3 hours of waiting I checked in with the nurse 3 more times. I then asked for a list of the prescribing Doctors. As of this moment we had not seen any of the Specialists or Doctors responsible for his Kidney treatment. The tests and prescriptions were ordered by the absent Hospitalist, Cardiologist, Gastroenterologist, Nephrologist and Rheumatologist.
Fed up with waiting, I asked about transferring hospitals.
Suddenly, the aforementioned Doctors began to make their appearances…
QUESTIONING THE DOCTORS
I kept a list of questions at hand so I was prepared when I was finally able to see a Doctor. The first thing I asked was if the high blood pressure could be causing the kidney damage. Even with the $200/bottle of blood pressure medications, his blood pressure remained high. The Doctor said that this was unlikely the cause.
However, result after result in my internet searches showed a different answer:
“High blood pressure makes the heart work harder and, over time, can damage blood vessels throughout the body. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney failure, also called end-stage renal disease (ESRD).” (Source “High Blood Pressure and Kidney Disease”)
Questions kept coming. Why was he given a Liver function test? Does he have compromised liver function? The Doctor assured me that the liver did not have any problems. Apparently, they were putting together a treatment plan for someone with a compromised liver, as it most likely happens with the auto immune disease. So this was preventative treatment.
I went through a variety of questions about his treatment plan, essentially trying to figure out if there was indeed a plan. The doctors were treating each symptom as it surfaced or preventing symptoms from occurring. There was no plan to get him back to health.
Next, I tackled the questions I had about each medication and it’s current side effects, pointing out his side effects matched his symptoms.
Each time I asked the doctors about medication side effects they informed me that the benefit of the medication outweighed the risks.
How is that possible if the risk is cancer or death!?
The answers I got from the Doctors were vague and did not give any hope. The medications were a crap shoot, at best. It was admitted guesswork, because of the complexity of my dads case.
By the end of his stay in the hospital, 2 weeks later, my dad had been given 3 blood transfusions, and was stable but couldn’t walk well enough to go home. The hospital put him on a renal diet that outlined how to limit potassium intake. They also gave him a maximum amount of 2000ml of liquid intake per day due to the swelling and his body not processing liquid.
When my dad left the hospital, that day he was loaded with medications and had his renal diet information. He regained his strength with a short stop of one week at the nursing home physical therapy facility. However, when he got home, he still wasn’t walking steadily and confidently. It was too cold to go out on walks in Washington, and the swelling hadn’t gone down enough to be comfortable. He barely had enough energy to keep a conversation and he soon spent the days and nights mostly lying down.
It wasn’t until 6 months later when a friend, Shannon Crawford, a Melanoma Skin Cancer survivor, referred us to a few documentaries on Netflix. The first we watched was “Food Matters” which broke down information on the Standard America Diet (ironically, the acronym is S.A.D), how we eat, how it affects our long term health and how we can make a difference in eating an organic whole food, plant based diet.
And there it was: my nutritional veil had been lifted.
The next documentaries we saw were “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” “The Beautiful Truth” and “The Gerson Miracle.”
It was after watching “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” a documentary about a man juicing himself out of an auto-immune disease, when Sami and I were convinced that my dad needed to come down to California and be out on a diet that incorporated juicing. We learned that through juicing, you’re able to get the nutritional value from a much larger portion of fruits and vegetables without making the body work hard and with minimal impact on the digestive system.
We knew that this was something where dad would need our support. It was not an idea where we could tell him to just go buy a juicer and start juicing. He wasn’t anywhere near well enough to take matters into his own hands.
I called my dad and tried to convince him that he needed to get on a flight and come try juicing. My argument was, if all of these doctors are mixing medications with serious side effects together to hopefully, maybe, produce some sort of result, then why not at least attempt an alternative that had no real risks? He was willing to try. The real concern was traveling with his limited mobility.
TRIP TO JUICE
About a month later, dad was wheeled off the plane in a wheel chair and meeting Sami and I at LAX. I was more than happy he had finally made the trip down. We were confident we had done the right thing. However, my shock at his appearance was hard for me to hide. His face was noticeably puffy under his Stetson hat, he wore an over-sized suede suit jacket, slippers instead of shoes because his feet were still swollen, and his legs appeared skeletal though the jeans he wore. Immediately, he could tell I was troubled and asked me what the worry was. I bluntly told him that he didn’t look good. He was actually surprised. He told me about how people specifically complimented him on how good he looked. He said, in fact, one time they even applauded when he came back to the Eagles, a local club he frequented in his hometown Vashon Island, WA. They were happy to see him alive.
I wheeled his chair curbside to the truck. It was difficult getting him in the passenger seat because he so weak. He could barely stand on his own, and lifting himself up was nearly impossible. He flopped into the truck and Sami and I helped him straighten out and buckle in. As we drove out of airport pick up area, I offered him fresh grapes and noticed that he was literally too weak to pull the grape off the vine.
On the arm of his large suede jacket, there were spots of blood. He had a paper towel with dried blood on it, showing out of the wrist of the jacket. He told me that while he was on the plane he had to use the bathroom, and while he was able to make it to the bathroom, when it came time to raise off of the seat, he couldn’t. Embarrassed but stuck, he had to ask someone to help him. If that weren’t enough, the man who helped him didn’t grab him by the hand, instead, he grabbed him by the forearm and as he did so, my dad’s paper thin skin was peeled down as the man’s hand slid down his arm. The top layer of skin on his forearm and bicep was literally peeled down and he was still bleeding. The flight attendants almost didn’t let him continue onto the next flight after the lay over because of his wounds. His trip down was even worse that I could have imagined.
When dad got to our apartment he showed us his arm and I nearly fainted. Had Sami not been there to help bandage him I don’t know what would have happened. My head was spinning.
RENAL DIET DISASTER
When we arrived at my apartment it was time to bandage the wounds and I was not prepared. In fact, I was completely panicked. I second guessed myself and our decision to bring him to LA. I hadn’t juiced what did I know? I questioned myself. He was so frail and weak, I was stunned.
I’m stunned at the site of everything and I turn to see my dad pull out a bag of Jelly Beans he had brought along. With all of the damage and bad
stuff going on inside of him, I was shocked he wanted to put that into his body. He simply told me that they were allowed with the hospital diet he was given.
First ingredient: Corn Syrup.
How is Sugar and corn syrup allowed in his daily diet yet he was supposed to watch the amount of water he took in? The logic baffled me.
I spent a lot of time looking over the nutritional advice from the hospital. Through the documentaries, I felt confident that I now knew what really made sense to eat for someone in his condition, and I guaranteed him that it was not jelly beans.
Looking through his renal diet print outs from the hospital I was flabbergasted. Even plain common sense had me questioning why the doctors would suggest this diet to him.
1) Protein. Well, if he has protein in his urine, why on earth would they recommend him eat protein?? His body can’t handle it, so why feed that to him?!
There was no doubt in my mind that he did not need to eat meat, so, we relied on plant-based protein.
4) Phosphorous. Low Phosphorous substitutes.
We eliminated Dairy from his diet. (11 reasons to stop eating dairy)
The low phosphorous substitutes were a joke as well. This category showed us that he was allowed to drink soda. Is this sponsored by PepsiCo?? Soda is not what a body needs to heal itself!
And the topper to make me really lose my mind: “eat enough calories to maintain weight” listing butter and margarine, cream cheese and fried foods!
The next sheet showed more specifically what he should and can eat. Again, we were totally dumbfounded to find cake, pies and cookies on the list. Not to mention the rice, pasta and noodles. His body was doing all this work to try and heal itself, being overtaken by medications, yet the advice was to consume “food” that has no nutritional value and the body will have to use a lot of energy to process? Why make the body work through its miles of intestines, kidneys and liver to get bad food through the system? Why are they making his body do so much work?
When he arrive in California, he was on 9 different medications and using a walker that conveniently carried his medications in the seat, along with his medical notes and insurance cards.
Since there was little he could do for the first few days he arrived because he was so weak, I
popped some documentaries in and we started including 3 juices a day in his diet. We included the ingredients that made the most sense based on what we knew about his condition. Low potassium fruit and vegetables.
He had a pill box filled for the whole month and there were a couple of medications he mentioned having to get refilled right away.
We started by going through each of his medications to understand what each prescription was for and what the side effects were.
Prilosec was the first pill to be removed from the pill box arsenal because he had no sign of heartburn or any other symptoms the pill states it is used for. Next, with no sign of thrush, we eliminated Clotrimozole.
We didn’t feed him processed foods and dairy, so the Calcium Acetate, used to help process those foods, was eliminated.
Taking a pill to allow a body to process processed food? Why not take the food out of the diet instead of this pill?
During this process of medication elimination, I spoke with his Kidney Specialist in Washington. He knew me from the previous visit to the hospital. I went through a lot of questions about the medications he was currently on, and most of the answers I got were about why he was taking certain prescriptions. With each medication I asked when we could consider taking him off, but general consensus was that he would be continuing to take all of them as his treatment plan. It didn’t actually sound like he was expected to get better. In fact, he was due to receive more new medications when he went to his next appointment.
I told the doctor that the reason I was asking about when we can consider lowering dosages or taking dad off medications, because were juicing and he has been continuously showing signs of improvement. Immediately:
The doctor advised me to be careful of juicing.
I was shocked that a medical professional who can prescribe multiple doses of medications with known and serious side effects, would have concern of juicing.
I went back to his pill box after our conversation with the Doctor. Feeling as though there were no real answers the medical professionals could give us, we continued to eliminate potentially harmful drugs. The next to go was the low dosage of Tacralimus, 0.5 mg, which is given to patients to prepare the body for kidney transplant. There are many warnings about using this medication, specifically about kidney disease, high blood pressure, (which he was being treated for with another pill), cancer, as well as diabetes. Additionally, there is a list of serious warnings that matched his symptoms: weakness, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, pain or burning on urination, swelling of the arms, hands, feet and ankles, unusual bruising. A medication that has the potential to do a lot of damage with little reassurance given about what it was actually doing, it was quickly discarded from the pill box. Considering it was only .5mg, we were sure there would not be an issue with any kind of withdrawals, and there wasn’t.
Equally alarming to Tacralimus side effects, was the Prednisone he was taking.
The list of side effects were over a page long, and the majority of his symptoms were on that list.
He had been taking Prednisone since the beginning of his treatment. By the time he got to us he was down to 20mg of Prednisone. After talking with him and showing him the amount of side effects he had on the list, dad agreed to half the dose of prednisone.
5 of the 10 side effects he was experiencing vanished as the diet was changed and the pills were removed.
His skin became less paper-like and fragile and actually started showing elasticity. The “slowed healing of cuts and bruises” was evidentially gone as we witnessed his torn arm and other wounds heal much more rapidly. The red and purple blotches on his hands got much lighter and his swelling decreased dramatically.
There was a noticeable change with my dad’s edema (swelling) and his energy in about 3 days. But it was by the 2nd week after much of the medications were decreased, the water pill, furosemide, was taken out of the pill box as well.
<< Picture of the swelling in his feet as it decreased to show a normal ankle and foot.
Through all of the juice googling, I quickly learned that beet juice is an excellent way to lower high blood pressure. We put the theory to the test and juiced a beet into a shot glass. Dad took the beet shot and within 15 minutes his blood pressure started dropping and normalizing. We were soon able to simply give him the beet juice shot in the morning and his blood pressure remained regulated throughout the day.
Needless to say, we eliminated the blood pressure medication, Lisinipril, and stuck with the (cheaper) beet juice.
We continued with three juices a day and removing medications as logically as we could with constant monitoring of the blood pressure and swelling. Every single day we watched him heal a little more. He soon started using a cane instead of the walker, except for longer distances while still building muscle. And although stubborn, he did push himself to exercise!
It wasn’t long before he was even able to start juicing himself.
With the Prednisone and the water pill down to 10mg, his energy up, and walking better, he was ready to go home.
Before he visited and our juicing treatment started to work, his health had no indication of getting him through the next year. Before he left California, I reminded him that he’s going to need to get some new hobbies since he was obviously going to be here a while longer.
Shortly after he arrived home to Vashon Island, WA he was back at the doctors taking various organ and blood tests. A few weeks later the results of his blood tests came back. This was what we had been waiting for… the proof! And we had it: other than being slightly high in potassium, with nothing to be concerned about, his results indicated much improvement as his levels were all stabilized.
His primary care physician was dumbstruck and the nurses had never witnessed anything like it. They told him they were accustomed to witnessing older people come in with problems similar to my fathers and never getting better.
They felt as though they were witnessing a miracle.
A few months later, more test results:
Chronic Kidney Disease showed that he no longer had the disease and his kidneys were improved and healthy.
The “incurable” auto immune, lupus-like disease were no longer attacking his kidneys.
We questioned, researched, took action and juiced my dad to health, curing his kidney disease; something the doctors would never admit.
Dad is medication-free. He’s sharing his story happy and an inspiration to his family, friends and community.